Done the right way and for the right reasons, changing your domain name can dramatically improve your rankings in search.
Here are our top tips for changing your domain name, the right way. We recently rolled out a domain name change for one of our clients, Rhythm Japan, so we will be using live examples from this campaign to help explain a few things.
In the lead up…
1. Develop a robust project plan
Developing a project plan is essential to ensuring everything that needs to be done is documented. Your plan should include all the actions you need to take, who’s responsible for each, deadlines and progress.
2. Audit your current inbound links
Know who your high value inbound links are, and contact them to let them know you’re changing your domain name. This also gives you the opportunity to thank them for linking to your site. To audit your inbound links, there are many tools out there, but we recommend using SEMrush. By a simple click of a few buttons, you can run a report that shows all the sites that link to yours, along with a quality score for each link. Easy!
3. Document all your outgoing URLs next to your new URLs
This is an important step in preparation for setting up your 301 redirects (see below). In a spreadsheet, list all your outgoing URLs, and place the new URL next to them. If you can, try not to change the extension URLs at all during this process. See the below example for Rhythm Japan’s Snowboard Rental page URL change:
- Old URL: www.skihirejapan.com/snowboard-hire/snowboard-rental/
- New URL: www.rhythmjapan.com/snowboard-hire/snowboard-rental/
4. Work with your developer to set up 301 redirects for everything!
A 301 redirect is a permanent way to send both users and search engines to a different, or new, URL from the original URL. If a 301 redirect is done the right way, your site should keep all the rankings earned by the old page.
Provide your URL spreadsheet to your developer, and work closely with them to ensure 301 redirects are set up for all pages on your site.
It’s alive! Steps to take once your new URL is in operation…
1. Publish your 301 redirects
Once your new URL is live and all the pages and URLs are appearing correctly, work with your developer to roll out all 301 redirects. Once this has been completed, check and make sure all the redirects are working.
2. Email your subscribers and valued customers
Develop and roll out an email campaign to all your subscribers and valued customers to let them know your URL has changed. You can also use this as an opportunity to thank them for their support.
This will not only help increase your referral traffic to the new domain name, but it’s also a great customer relationship building activity.
3. Update Google Analytics
Remember to update your Google Analytics account with your new URL. Go to: Admin > Property > Property Settings > Default URL.
4. Update Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster
For Google Search Console, you can easily update your URL using the ‘Change of Address’ tool. Learn more about changing your address in Google Search Console. For Bing, use the ‘Site Move’ tool under ‘Diagnostics & Tools’. Learn more about how to use the Bing Webmaster Site Move Tool.
Make sure you also submit a fresh new sitemap to both Search Console and Webmaster.
5. Social Media and Google My Business
This may seem obvious, but whilst everything else is going on, posting on your social accounts about your domain name change, as well as updating your address on each account can easily fall off the radar. So, remember to inform your social communities and update your new URL across all your social media accounts, as well as Google My Business.
6. Build quality inbound links
To help improve your rankings, develop an inbound link / backlink building campaign. Building credible backlinks to your site has two major benefits:
- It can help improve your ranking in search. Inbound links give your site credibility, so the more you have, the better you will rank in search.
- It can drive traffic referral to your site from those users clicking on the link.
7. Monitor the migration
Monitor post-migration as much as possible, paying particular attention to the following:
- Crawl errors (use Google Search Console)
- Indexing of pages (use Google Search Console)
- Changes to rankings for keywords using SEMrush
- Organic traffic changes using Google Analytics
8. And finally, blog, blog, and then blog some more
It’s a well documented fact that blogging, when created the right way, can help improve rankings in search. Blogs allow websites to create and syndicate fresh, keyword rich content. This in turn helps you improve your rankings, as well as helping to build your online brand, increase traffic and usage on your site, and build inbound links, all of which also help boost SEO.